“Camping” at the dump station


By Wolfe Rose

This past holiday weekend I went camping at a dump station. At least two hours into waiting in line for my trailer to do its business I felt like I had added an extra day to my stay. As we lurched forward I was reminded of several reasons I usually use a macerator at home instead of waiting in line like this. This is the part of camping that I’ve never heard anyone say they enjoy because it’s gross, it stinks, it’s slow. Wait a minute, no it isn’t. At least, it shouldn’t be … and what was taking everyone so long?

I got to watch the last several rigs ahead of mine, and the owner of a very shiny one typified the problem as he carefully opened his storage compartment, changed his shoes for rubber ones, gloved up to the elbows, put on a welder’s apron, and finally laboratory goggles. Are you kidding me? I was waiting for him to add hip-waders and a snorkel.

Thus surgically prepared, he reached into storage again and retrieved the Stinky Slinky of The One True Dumpsite. It didn’t have a brass nameplate, but he carried it reverently at arms’ length and face level until he reached his connection, bowed before the valves and … stared as if he’d never seen this end of his rig before. Setting the Slinky on the ground (baptized in the “ick zone” — so much for reverence), he finally proceeded to uncap, reach for what seemed the gray valve, remembered to actually connect his Slinky first, and bumbled his way through, albeit a total of 25 minutes before he rolled forward again.

The rig right before mine had a Slinky that disconnected when the black valve was released. Yeah, I was wondering if I could still borrow the rubber shoes when it was my turn. This guy also wore elbow length gloves, and after pretty well covering them when his Slinky exploded, he wiped them off … on his pants … and then drove away.

And then it was finally my turn. Just for curiosity (since I wonder about really gross things), I timed myself from hopping out to hopping back in. I swear I couldn’t take that long. Here’s the procedure I followed:

1. Opened my driver side storage and removed my leak-proof tray containing my Slinky, setting it open on the grass away from the puddle of ick. This keeps the container uncontaminated outside; I occasionally wash the inside with bleach.

2. Grabbed the dump end of the Slinky and lodged it in the hole, right-handed. Only my right hand will get contaminated.

3. Removed the cap and connected the RV end of the Slinky, right-handed. Park close and only stretch the Slinky as far as needed, minimizing contamination and maximizing flow rate.

4. Pulled the black tank release left-handed. My left hand isn’t contaminated, so neither is the handle.

5. Opened the RV door left-handed, filled the toilet to the rim and then released it fast. I don’t have a tank rinser, so this final surge helps. I’m just waiting around anyway!

6. Returned to the Slinky. I have a clear section so I can enjoy the show, just winding down again and free of “traffic” on the river. Gravity won’t empty perfectly anyway, but no more black tank “boats” is enough.

7. Before the river dried up, I closed the black valve, left-handed. No, the tank is NOT empty. I don’t want it dry, so no reason to trickle for 10 minutes only to add more water.

8. Pulled the gray tank release, left-handed. Right is still contaminated, handles are still clean.

9. When the stream mostly slowed, I closed the gray valve. Again, I don’t want totally dry.

10. Right hand released the Slinky from the RV, and lifted that end to drain the Slinky. The inside of the Slinky may be damp, but it’s not dribbling. And it actually shouldn’t smell too much, either, because the soapy gray water washed out any black “ick.” Never dump only black, and never dump it last.

11. Right hand coiled Slinky back in it’s tray. This is the trickiest part, but my tray’s sides resist enough to accordion the Slinky one-handed. Left hand stowed tray.

12. Left hand replaced the cap, which hangs away from the pipe and was dry. I don’t touch the inside anyway, but this is the first time my left hand even COULD get contaminated.

13. Returned to RV, and washed my hands with good antibacterial soap. Unsettling that no one else I saw washed.

14. Drove away … all of 4 minutes later and up to 90 gallons lighter, and I wasn’t racing.

Now, you may have noticed several normally lauded things I did NOT do. I didn’t skip them because of rushing; I always skip them:

• I didn’t wear goggles and a Tyvek suit – because there shouldn’t be a reason to. I’m not splashing around in puddles, and my Slinky connects securely and doesn’t leak.

• I didn’t wear booties – I stood uphill from the dampness, so even if my soles got damp, that’s no worse than walking into the men’s room. I did scuff my shoes in the grass walking back to the truck.

• I didn’t even wear gloves – My Slinky is stored in a leak-proof container and is generally bone-dry on the outside. At no point was either hand wet until I washed them, and dumping shouldn’t be any worse than going to the bathroom yourself – which you usually wash after, right?!

• I didn’t wait for the very last trickles – Besides causing an absurd delay, you should never leave your tanks dry unless you’ve seriously cleaned them (e.g., with a pressure washer). This is because gravity (and most tank rinsers) actually cannot empty all the solids (black tank solids or gray food waste) from your tanks, and letting them dry out will glue those solids in place. This is a corollary of why you never, ever (!) leave your valves open when you have full connections (because almost none of your solids follow the water out of the tanks). The “official” procedure would have you immediately re-add water after dumping 99%, but that’s just adding insult over only draining the faster 95% in the first place.

• I didn’t rinse the Slinky with a rinse hose – If 40 gallons of soapy gray water hasn’t cleaned out the Slinky, I have little faith a couple gallons of plain water will. Meanwhile, you’re almost certainly contaminating yourself by touching the maltreated rinse spigot and hose.

• Some recommend wipes for questionable surfaces, but I’m towing a sink with hot water, so I use that for hands instead of wipes or gel sanitizer.

Do you think I’m Dumping Dangerously? In the hundreds of dumpings I’ve done as above, I’ve never had reason to believe I’ve contaminated myself. If you feel safer at least wearing gloves, go with them and remove them properly … but save your pants. That was just nasty.

##RVT811 ##RVDT1361

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Charles Hampton
3 months ago

Practice makes…well, maybe not perfect, but certainly better. Please cut us “part-timers” a little slack in case we haven’t dumped in a while, and can’t find our check list and Therblig diagrams.

3 months ago

I do a very similar “dump” only difference is wife drives short distance away after I have stowed the equipment And waits for me to wash up either in our restroom or in the campgrounds

Michael Starks
3 months ago

Heck, this story is worth the price of a subscription donation! Thanks! Isn’t it funny that the germs that send us seeking out gloves and booties are OUR germs, the close kin of the ones we’ll wash off our hands the next time we use the toilet.

Wolfe Rose / GyroGearloose
3 months ago
Reply to  Michael Starks

Thanks… I don’t write full articles for RVT anymore, although I do post gratis more than I have any sane reason to, :-D, as well as hosting a YouTube channel on RV DIY, mods, and products.

…and yes, people have lost their blessed minds over germs, particularly lately. We actually need a healthy bacterial and viral exposure to avoid getting sick (a big factor in the current C19 fiasco, but I won’t detour too much on that or I’ll never get back to work).

3 months ago

Very good advice, now lets print it out and keep a few copies to pass out to that person ahead of you taking that long and is disrespectful to people behind him.

3 months ago

Yeah, we can never figure out what takes so long, and it isn’t usually “dressing”. People act like they’ve never done it before, don’t have their equipment ready, or don’t know what to do. I’d add gloves to the mix and we rinse our hose, but it still doesn’t take more than 6 minutes or so. Another tip: keep everything you need in ONE compartment so you don’t have to jump around between them. Keep all the equipment in one plastic container (we have a built in storage place for the hose so that’s separate) so it’s quick to access. And for pity sake, do NOT touch your face or any other part of your body while dumping. It’s gross!

3 months ago
Reply to  Cindy

Wait… you’re saying I shouldn’t sniff my hands to see if I’ve contaminated myself? And how would I get my fingers dry if I don’t wipe them off on my cheek?

Ewww… Just eww…

3 months ago

Good write up Wolfe. Just two things I do different. I always wear disposable gloves. Secondly, I always attach my drain hose to the RV first. I’ve witnessed people who put the other end into the sewer drain first and lose control of the hose and voila the whole hose goes down the drain. Yup, that tends to back things up as well.

Mike Sherman
3 months ago

I always strive to get a full hook-up site to avoid this problem. I have not had to use a dump station in years.

3 months ago
Reply to  Mike Sherman

I agree Mike. Once used a dump station and yes it was practically an over night
experience waiting in line. Yes, some are newbies and takes them a little longer
however some of it is just plain disrespect for the people in line!

3 months ago

Years ago I watch a couple dump,then get out 2 5gallon buckets. Proceed to fill said buckets and carry them,1at a time into the bath and dump them into the toilet. When they put 3buckets into the tank,they emptied the tanks and proceeded to do it again.I finally yelled at them that “they don’t have to be finger licking clean” that they were holding up the line. They quickly moved the trailer ahead and started putting things away. Hadn’t a clue. I guess they also were blind to the fact there where 15 units behind them.

Bob Fuller
3 months ago

Your very patient person. I’m glad it wasn’t me. I’m like you, when I’m in
line I think about people like me and dump and move on. Next time I’ll have my wife time me. I always rinse the hose after using it. I like what you said about the gray water cleaning the hose make a lot of sense and will save time and getting splashed with the rinse water !!

3 months ago

Good plan. A box of gloves from Harbor Freight work for me. Heavier material than the “white/tan” gloves.
We also practice no #2 in the coach.

Steven N
3 months ago
Reply to  tom

I do agree with the Harbor Freight (7mil at a minimum) throw away gloves however I am not going to hike to the shared outhouse when I have a perfectly good, purpose designed toilet in my unit!

3 months ago
Reply to  tom

Not using the toilet for #2 defeats the purpose of having an “on board” bathroom.
It was one of the reasons we purchased a Class A – to be able to go #1 & 2 while
driving down the road.

Don Baker
3 months ago

Quite unlike the idiot that was our neighbor a few weeks ago.
He proceeded to empty his tanks and then disconnect the hoses while they were still dribbling and went about his way doing other prep work to leave. After about 5 minutes of watching this I went out and called him out on it. He hurriedly went around like it had been an accident and closed the valves.
He then pulled out of the space with the caps still off of his drain lines and headed out. I am certain that he stopped and reopened the valves after leaving the park. After all he surely did not want to take the RV home and have any of that stinky stuff still in there at home.
I told him prior to leaving that it was illegal to travel without the caps in place but he never said a word and hurriedly left. Unfortunately it was too early to report him to the park management at they were not yet open.

Kirk Pfeffer
3 months ago

Two things we do to ease the pain of waiting at the dump station. First off we take our time getting out of our site. If checkout is at 3 we are usually pulling out at 2:55. Most people are in a hurry to leave camp early in the morning. Second is that we set our departure date during the week so on Sunday I can sit there and watch the mad scramble. Guess it helps to be retired. Even so we have it worked out pretty well and it doesn’t take long.

3 months ago

Some much needed common sense.

3 months ago

I once was behind a guy in a rental RV. He dumped and then apparently refilled the tank or tanks completely full to rinse them out and dumped the second time. It took over half an hour!

My guess is that it was his last stop and the rental place told him to rinse out the tanks before returning it.

Steve flippo
3 months ago

Excellent description of your dumping procedure. No reason for people to take so long to dump.

Tom B
3 months ago

I’ve changed dirty diapers for my 2 boys. That’s worse than dumping the tanks. Take the time to THINK about what you’re doing, and it’s not a problem. I do rinse my hose before putting it back into its bucket, because even grey water doesn’t smell fresh. If anything dries in there, I prefer it be mostly “fresh” water.

3 months ago
Reply to  Tom B

Agree 100% in rinsing the hose with fresh water prior to storing. Gray water does stink
and has certain elements you want washed down the sewer and not left on the inner
walls of the hose.

3 months ago

As an RN who worked in the OR for many years, your technique is admirable. Without seeing you “in action”, your accounting does sound like you have minimized your own risk while at the same time, avoided adding any risk for others. Well done!

3 months ago

One point for those who use a macerator frequently. The macerator doesn’t create the volume of flow or the flushing action that the 4″ gravity feed does, so it doesn’t clean out the solids as well. If you’re travelling, the movement keeps the bottom of the tank clean, but if you’re sitting, the solids can build up.

Paul Goldberg
3 years ago

We use a macerator with a 1″ hose and cap on the end. It stays connected. I seldom use gloves unless I need to open the connection for some reason. to flush the black tank, after it is empty I turn off the pump and open the grey valve which equalizes volume between the two tanks and close grey and reopen black and pump again. I apologize if you are behind me at the dump station. It will take me up to 15 minutes to clear my tank as the pump is slower than just 3″ hoses dump. OTOH my clean up is easy, cap the hose and put it in the utility bay ready for the next use.

3 years ago

Maybe this has been done before but a survey of gloves vs no gloves might be interesting.

3 months ago
Reply to  RV Staff

Now two years later I get to see the poll. 🙂

Any thought to having the comment section send an email if your comment has been replied to?